The roads ahead, and behind

I’m back home again after 10 days in the US. Two days working at the US HQ on the east coast, then a week with Mom and the family in California for Thanksgiving. I’ve had two bouts with jet-lag (which I’m enjoying while writing this post at 6am, having been awake since 2:30am) and two bouts of culture shock. You’d think that after all this time of traveling back and forth from Europe and the US I’d be used to it by now. Not.

Here are some things that hit me right away when I arrive in the US:

Terrible roads. Whether you are in the Boston area or California, the roads suck. They are full of cracks and holes and half hearted paving attempts. It’s worse than Belgium.

The size of cars, or should I say, the proliferation of SUVs. They are everywhere. Gas guzzling monsters. And Americans have the nerve to cry about gas prices and warring over oil! Hello! Look what you drive! In California I picked up my rental “car” only to find that they only had SUVs left. Great. Now I have to pay more for gas too.

The in-your-face selling of everything, even prescription drugs that you can’t actually go out and buy anyway. Doesn’t matter. Go ask your doctor for xyz drug, go on, ask, ASK, no DEMAND that your doctor give you this drug because you heard all about it on tv and it must be for you!

I won’t even START with Black Friday. Madness. No where else but in America can you find such shopping frenzy.

Lack of anything at all “newsy” in the news. No news about the rest of the world. No news stories deeper than a headline in the evening tv news. Not even news about the Iraq war. It’s like a news black out over there. Isn’t anyone concerned about that? Aren’t you wondering what is happening outside your front door?

These things give me serious culture shock.

Now, I’ve only been home to Amsterdam since Sunday afternoon. I spend 90% of my time here. But still something things hit me in the face when I get back.

People in Amsterdam are aggressive.  They bike aggressively.  They drive aggressively.  They can be very rude.

Shopping at a neighborhood AH for groceries between 5:30pm and 6:30pm is something to be avoided at all costs, but also something Mom must experience when she comes over.  Amsterdam living at its best.

The weather sucks.   Yesterday, Monday, back to work.  I first checked http://www.buienradar.nl and all looked clear.  I walked downstairs to get on my bike, and it started raining!  Damn.  Go back upstairs, put on rain pants, go back down and face the rain and the bike while tired and jetlagged.  Sigh.  Welcome home.

Well, that’s enough for now.  It all sounds pretty negative, which only goes to show you that there’s no perfect place to live, you just have to find the place with the post positives for you to be happy.  I’m sticking with the Netherlands.  They have great roads.

Mom’s sock – before and after, Part I

Here’s Mom’s first sock.

I didn’t start the second one until she tried on the first one.  And it’s a good thing too!  It was way too big.  Hey!  How can it be too big when I knit it to the measurements Mom sent me?  Well, I measured her foot myself, and discovered that the measurements were all too big!  Why oh why?  Mom said “well I didn’t want it to be too small”.  Bless her.

Here’s her sock now:

From now on I knit socks for others based on the shoe size and that’s it!

Update:  I’ve started again, 2 pattern repeats smaller.  I’m half way down the leg and it’s fitting fine now.  I also think I will make the toe sections for left and right feet (start the decreases sooner for the small toes).  After starting these socks so many times, I won’t ever make this pattern again!  So Mom, they will be unique in the family!

the advantages of jet lag

It’s 4:30 in the morning and I’m wide awake in America. What else can you do in such a state besides get out the computer and surf the airwaves? And drink some so-so hotel coffee, waiting until the rest of the world wakes up and can prepare your breakfast for you.

I’m on my way to a week with Mom and the family, turkey and Black Friday shopping. Between home and “home” lies the east coast of the US where I have to stop for a few days for some meetings and work related things. I did the same thing last Thanksgiving. Maybe it will become a ritual. At some point I would really like to spend some time getting to know the Boston area rather than just the inside of a hotel room and an office building.

Anyway, enough of this jet lagged rambling. I actually wanted to write and say that

I’m IN on RAVELRY! If you have not been accepted into the fold, you have no idea how cool this site is! I’ve only spent about 10 minutes looking around and I can already see that I could spend days here. Who ever thought up this site was a genius at using web 2.0 technology in the very best way. Forget Second Life. What a waste of time. Ravelry’s the way to use community and technology.

Now, if you aren’t into knitting or fiber arts, never mind. The concept could work with any number of interests that people share. Dogs, for example. Or surgical instruments.

I imagine that the backbone of Ravelry is a giant relational database. Members have their own area where they upload their photos, their projects, what they have in their stash (all knitters have a stash of yarn, it’s an addiction), what projects they want to start working on next, what tools they have at hand, etc. They enter where they are located, what their interests are. All this is then put into the big black box and out comes the relational connections between all these 10’s of thousands of people.

There are groups you can join of like minded people. For example there is a group for people addicted to the tv show 24; a group for 30 something’s; a group called the Dyke Knitting Circle. You get the idea.

You can easily see who’s on Ravelry from your town or country. Who’s knitting the same pattern as you. Who’s knitting the same yarn. Contact people who knit for their dogs for example. It’s community with a million possibilities!

The site is also beautiful in it’s simplicity and usability. It’s still in Beta, which is why you have to sign up on the waiting list and wait to be invited to join. This is such a good idea – let in only as many people as your hardware/software/time can handle and make it a quality experience for everyone. I only had to wait about 2 weeks before my number came up. Well worth the wait.

Now I can’t wait to dig in and get started! I need more photos…. I need more info on my yarns to enter here…. I just need more TIME!

Let’s see, it’s now only 5:00 am so I guess I have another hour to kill……… sometimes jet lag is a nice thing.

Stitching Bitches

Today was the Stitch ‘n Bitch Dag Nederland in Rotterdam. I drove by myself down, not knowing what to expect really. I haven’t managed to make it to a single meeting in Amsterdam yet. I had met a few knitters at Nancy Marchand‘s workshop several weeks ago, but otherwise I know no one in the knitting world here. Yesterday at work I Googled the website for the event to find out what time it started and one website that Google found was “Andy in Amsterdam“. He blogged about the event so I left a comment that maybe I’d meet him there. Who knows?

It was held in a renovated factory on the outside of the city center. Good thing I had my TomTom with me! As my colleague Ellen says, “TomToms make you stupid”, and that’s true, I had absolutely no idea where I was. But I knew I was in good hands with ol’ Tom. He got me there and home, even though roads had changed and I had to re-route a couple of times.

I had promised myself I would only buy yarn to finish a scarf I had started and didn’t have enough yarn to finish it at a good length. I want to make it a double sided brioche, with the multiple color on one side, and a matching solid color on the other side. But you know how it goes when you promise not to buy yarn in a place that has thousands of skeins to choose from…. Ha!

I bought gold colored sock yarn to complete that scarf, plus sock yarn to make 2 pairs of socks from a stand selling Finland imports. They also said I could find out more about the yearns at www.garnstudio.com.

I bought this lovely wool from Carina from De Schapekop (the sheep’s head).

The photo doesn’t do it justice of course. It is hand dyed, very soft and still has that raw wool smell and feel. There’s still a bit of lanolin in it. Fabulous. I’m going to make a vest out of it. There’s just enough to make that.

I bought some cute markers from Ballee who bills herself as a maker of children’s toys. I can’t imagine anyone letting a child play with these!

I DIDN’T buy yarn from Wolhalla that I just fell in love with. It’s a 75% wool and 25% bamboo mix, and once again, the photo just doesn’t show the amazing colors and sheen of this yarn. It comes from Germany, is called Trekking Pro Natura. I will HAVE to buy some. They didn’t have enough on hand to make a sweater, and besides I have to give some thought to what I would make with it. But it’s definitely on my wish list now.

I also saw a fun fat yarn called “Loft” from Atelier Zitron (another German yarn). It was thickly spun but seemed to weigh almost nothing. No wonder they call it Loft. This yarn was at a booth run by Astrid and her family. Again, on my wish list!

So, what else was going on besides shopping? There was a fashion show with prizes to be won (next year I’ll have to enter!):

And lots of workshops. I signed up too late to make it into any of them. Next year I’ll have to sign up earlier. There were also long tables set up upstairs where people were meeting and chatting. I saw one table for Ravelry members. Damn. I’m still 7,302 places away from being admitted.

Oh yeah, I did run into Andy and I introduced myself. There were not so many men there so he was easy to spot. 🙂 We chatted for a minute. I told him I thought he had a really nice blog. He said I should come to the Monday night S’nB meetings. I’ll just have to do that.

The Ring

No, it’s not the one ring to rule them all, but it is silver and it is finished. It started out as two flat pieces of silver. One I cut into a sort of Maori fishing hook design. The idea was to solder one on top of the other and then make a ring out of it.

It took quite a few attempts to get the ends soldered together correctly. Even though I’m used to working with my hands, I felt completely awkward with a blow torch in one hand and silver solder in the other. It didn’t come naturally at all! When you solder the ends of a ring together the ring is not round, but rather triangular. It’s the only way to get the ends to match up exactly. This photo is a little blurry, but you get the idea.

After that, you have to file the solder flat, inside and out, then start with the sand paper at the join until you can’t see the join any more. But be careful not to make that spot thinner than the rest of the ring!

Then pound the heck out of it to make it round, buff it and polish it, and there you go! A shiny silver ring.

Another photo to try to show the design and the shine of the thing:

It was fun to make, and fun to take this class, but will I continue with it? Will I take another class and learn how to set stones and do inlays? I kind of doubt it. If I wasn’t working, or if this was my only hobby, then probably. But at this point I miss my knitting too much!